Troubled Marriages 'Can Be a Danger to Women's Health'

Article excerpt

Byline: Lisa Jones and John von Radowitz

WOMEN were warned yesterday that being married can be bad for their health.

Scientists found that wives in strained marriages were prone to risk factors for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

However, the same was not true of their husbands, according to the research.

Psychologists in the US studied 276 couples aged 40 to 70 who had been married an average of 20 years.

Each couple filled out questionnaires designed to assess the good and bad aspects of married life.

Among the positive influences were mutual support, emotional warmth and friendliness - while negative effects included arguments, feelings of hostility, and disagreements over topics such as children, money and sex.

Participants were also given "depression scores" based on self-reported symptoms.

Couples were then examined in a clinic where doctors measured the size of their waists, took blood pressure readings, and tested levels of cholesterol, triglyceride blood fats and glucose.

The tests determined whether or not the volunteers had "metabolic syndrome" - a collection of symptoms known to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

In women, marital strain was associated both with depression and a larger number of metabolic syndrome symptoms.

But although husbands in unhappy marriages were also depressed, they managed to avoid the adverse health effects suffered by their wives.

Researcher Nancy Henry, from the University of Utah, said: "We hypothesised that negative aspects of marriages like arguing and being angry would be associated with higher levels of metabolic syndrome.

"We further anticipated that this relationship would be at least partly due to depressive symptoms.

"In other words, those who reported experiencing more conflict, hostility and disagreement with their spouses would be more depressed, which in turn would be associated with a higher risk of heart disease due to metabolic syndrome. …